Construction and Engineering – Jobs and Careers in the Middle East- International Construction Recruitment

There are so many questions to ask when seeking work or a career in construction in the Middle East. This article is focused on Living and working in the Middle East for British Citizens.

Stafford Lawrence Ltd works with a number of well-known construction consultancy and engineering clients and provide jobs and careers for candidates in Quantity Surveying / Commercial Management, Project Management and Engineering (Architectural, Civil, Structural, Electrical and Mechanical) professions. Candidates seeking jobs or careers in the Middle East. Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Saudi, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman.

This blog briefly covers salaries in the middle east, visas, age limits, and holiday allowances. We also briefly cover the differences between Dubai, Saudi, Qatar Oman and Bahrain.

The following is just a little information gleaned over 20+ years working for clients and with candidates recruiting them for jobs and careers in the Middle East.

If you are an expat seeking International jobs and careers in the USA New Zealand or anywhere else in the world, visit our International jobs page for all our other Overseas Cost Quantity Surveying and Commercial Management vacancies.

So, why Work with a Recruiter?

  1. Firstly, we have a number of vacancies with top consultancy clients in the Middle East. So after discussion we can suggest 2 or 3 clients who have roles that would be appropriate for you.
  2. We ensure that we receive feedback for your CV, be that positive or negative. Please bear in mind though, Middle East recruitment can either be super fast or incredibly slow, we aim for feedback within 2 weeks sometimes it might be a little longer if there is a national holiday. So we ask for a little patience as there are a lot of people who are keen to go to the Middle East and you wont be the only candidate under interview, some of these companies are looking for multiple candidates. So bear in mind its not like the UK where you might be the only candidate for one role.
  3. We can advise on salary bandings for all our roles. Over the last 20 years we have placed many candidates into the Middle East. We ensure that it is viable for you to make a move to the middle east and suggest which area would be best for you, dependent upon single, married or family status requirements. You do not have to take our salary advice, that is entirely up to you. Our candidate front cover sheet provides a lot of information to our clients and we make suggestions on your requirement for a salary banding, based on our discussions. If we feel you are pricing yourself out of the market, we will let you know. Its your call.
  4. We work with you and our clients to assist in securing an offer as well as assisting you with all the paperwork required for your visa. We also keep in touch until you arrive at your destination and beyond.

Salaries in the Middle East – Expat Salaries 

Salaries for British expat Quantity Surveyors, Cost Consultants, Commercial Managers, Project Managers and Engineers in the Middle East – That depends on the position and the level. Stafford Lawrence tends to work with global organisations, that have a UK /European or US arm.  Our clients are aware, that you pay tax and pay for your own accommodation and sometimes transport when living and working in the United Kingdom.

It is likely you will want to earn a lot more money for working overseas, but don’t be greedy and price yourself out of the market. We are called by some candidates who tell us exactly how much they think they are worth in the Middle East…because their friend or their uncle told them, which can be quite amusing. Just try to remember, we do this for a living, day in day out, almost 365 days of the year. We have been placing candidates into the Middle East for over 20 years. We can tell you what the going rate is for someone with your experience, from Assistant to Board Level. However, you do not have to listen to us, if you know better ;-)

YES, you can earn a good tax-free salary, but you need to be realistic. You might have to take a step back, to take a step forward.

Remember there are highly qualified candidates from across the globe applying for Middle East jobs and careers. You are competing with a larger group of highly qualified people. There is much to learn and you might not be able to hit the ground running considering the differing contracts and working practices in the Middle East.

Salaries packages in the Middle East – International Construction Candidate Recruitment

  • We aim to get some of your current salary tax-free, plus accommodation and transport allowances. In some circumstances we can push for more. Dependent upon experience.
  • Medical Cover is always provided by the company, on top of your package.
  • Our clients provide mobilisation and demobilisation flights (any additional flights will come out of your transport allowance).
  • Salaries in the Middle East are paid as a monthly amount. This covers your basic salary, transport and accommodation allowance.
  • All the companies that we work for will also pay for all visa costs and assist you in obtaining a visa.
  • Bonus as Per the Law in each country- This is usually a percentage of your basic monthly salary
  • For more information on expat salaries for the middle east or Commercial Manager salaries for the middle east, please email our admin team who can set up a call to talk you through this

When we talk to British Expats interested in living and working in the Middle East, we ascertain if it is viable for UK candidates to go to the Middle East. Occasionally, we will advise candidates that it won’t be financially viable, especially candidates with families, as the cost of living and schooling in the Middle East is high. The demand for Middle East roles is high and the salaries in recent years have come down, due to a drop in projects.

 Middle East Jobs, Careers and Salaries – Middle East Construction Recruitment

  • When recruiters advertise job vacancies for the Middle East, the figure advertised is usually a monthly amount in local currency and this will be the ALL IN amount or Total Package (salary, accommodation and transport) Unless otherwise stated on the job vacancy. Medical Cover is provided on top, plus an end-of-service bonus or yearly bonus, which is a percentage 1-month salary for every year served. Some companies may offer additional bonuses. So to work it out the basic salary is usually 60% of the total package advertised.
  • We are advertising some job vacancies in Saudi that provide accommodation on top of the basic rather than an accommodation allowance, which is a bonus as prices are rising for accommodation, especially in Saudi Arabia. We also have some remote roles that provide hotel accommodation food and laundry.
  • Remember, competition for job roles and careers in the Middle East is very high, you are competing with the best and most qualified candidates from across the globe. We often advise our candidates on a suggested salary for Middle East roles.
  • It is in our interest to get you the very best salary we can as we charge a fee to our clients based on your basic salary, but at the same time, we need to ensure and advise that you don’t price yourself out of the market.

Middle East Tax – Work in the Middle East

As an Expat, do I need to pay tax on my income?

  • Qatar does not currently levy income tax on expat individuals’ salaries, wages, or allowances
  • UAE does not levy income tax on expat individuals’ salaries, wages, or allowances.
  • Saudi Arabia does not levy income tax on expat individuals’ salaries, wages, or allowances. However, a new levy has been introduced in Saudi Arabia on expat dependents. Further information can be found on the following sites.

Saudi Arabia Collects New Tax On Expats – Expat Network

Expat Dependent Fee Calculator 2023 –

UK Govt Website -Tax on foreign income

Middle East – Pensions – Middle East Packages

Do they provide Pensions in the Middle East?

In many Middle East countries, a pension scheme is not provided. Pensions are not part of your package for a Middle East role. Stafford Lawrence Ltd cannot provide financial advice on pension schemes. We do however advise that you ensure that you have a provision for your retirement. You may be enjoying a high salary as an ex-pat, and reap the rewards of living and working in the Middle East, but everyone retires at some point. Advice on how to ensure you have an adequate pension as an ex-pat is available on the Internet. Please read below on retirement ages in the middle east as these have changed recently.

Dubai Vs Qatar salary and Dubai vs Saudi Salary

In recent months and because of the worldwide pandemic and reduced projects coupled with Dubai being the preferred choice for many candidates, salaries in Dubai have seen a significant reduction. Competition for roles is high, clients can pick and choose their candidates. Salaries in Qatar for Quantity Surveyors and Commercial Managers are only slightly higher than in Dubai. The cost of living in Qatar is  higher. With so much competition for Dubai roles, Qatar or Bahrain is the next choice followed by Saudi Arabia. Salaries in Saudi Arabia for Quantity Surveyors and commercial managers tend to be higher than in Qatar, however, salaries in Saudi have also seen a reduction, because of candidates becoming available from Oman and Dubai where projects are slowing.

For some further useful information on living in the UAE, Saudi, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain visit the Expat Network website 

Holiday Allowances Middle East

The majority of our clients who are Construction Consultancy organisations offer between 22-25days holiday, plus all national holidays ( of which there are quite a few) You can check the internet for the number of National holidays in a particular country every year.

Holiday allowances are across the board. So it is important to remember they will not negotiate on holiday allowances, regardless of the holiday allowance you are getting in the UK or Ireland or anywhere else. Rules are rules, they offer the same to everyone, this is company policy.

Middle East Construction Recruitment. Which country is best for me? 

Dubai is the most popular work destination for families but salaries have come down considerably over recent years. There are fewer projects and more candidates, so, a lot of competition for roles. You can still earn a good tax-free salary. Unmarried couples can now live and work in Dubai. Due to the law, it is still illegal to live as an unmarried couple in Saudi, Oman, Kuwait and Qatar, more information can be found on the internet.

Saudi currently has lots of projects Hotels and Resorts and Theme Parks, Saudi Arabia or KSA ( Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) is more restrictive than other parts of the Middle East but has improved considerably over recent years, women are now allowed to drive and are welcomed in construction roles. In terms of salary it’s on a par with Qatar, possibly slightly more.

Jobs and Careers for Women in Construction and Engineering in the Middle East

Over the last 20 years we have recruited into Dubai and Qatar into construction and engineering roles. There are a number of women in construction at all levels across the industry.

Saudi Arabia KSA is actively encouraging women in the Construction and Engineering sectors in Saudi Arabia -KSA. Stafford Lawrence Ltd has recently placed a number of women into a variety of roles in the Kingdom.

Accommodation in the Middle East. Housing in the Middle East

Will they provide me with Accommodation?

  • No. In general, clients will provide you with an accommodation allowance every month( see salary information) which is part of your monthly total package salary.
  • Some remote location roles provide you with hotel accommodation and food on top of your basic salary package.
  • You can look at accommodation and costs on the Internet, our advice is to wait till you get over there. There are plenty of expats already there who can provide you with information on the best places to look. Our clients can also assist you and recommend the best places.
  • There are plenty of ex-pats working for the company you join, who will be able to provide the name of a good rental agent, or maybe if you don’t want your own accommodation you can rent a room.
  • Most companies will provide hotel accommodation for the first few weeks/ month. Most clients will put you up in a hotel for a few weeks when you arrive, you must then source accommodation in that period and its much easier and cheaper to do it when you are ‘on the ground’
  • Accommodation in Saudi is slightly different and is provided on a compound. Our clients can advise on this.

What position can I expect?- Middle East Quantity Surveyor jobs

“I’m a Senior Quantity Surveyor and I want an Associate Director role”.

Candidates without previous experience in the Middle East may be offered a role title similar to the one they currently have.

It would be difficult to suggest that you could ‘hit the ground running’ without previous middle east experience. OK, you might be very smart, but there will be different ways of working, different contracts, FIDIC. We suggest you learn to walk for the first 3-6 months, gain experience, complete probation, and then start chasing titles. You might have to take a step back to take a step forward. Do not be hung up on a title.

Can I take my girlfriend/ boyfriend with me to work in the Middle East?

Due to new laws in Dubai, you can now go to Dubai as an unmarried couple. You cannot currently go to Saudi as an unmarried couple and we would not recommend it in Qatar. Although you might have heard there are couples who do. You are working in a Muslim country and you must respect the laws. All our clients adhere to these laws very strictly, failure to do so would impact their business and therefore we do not advise that you do this.

Can I take my family to the Middle East

Yes. The majority of companies can provide Married or Family Status positions. It is not recommended to take your family and children for work on a remote location.

Is there a beach?

Yes, would you believe it! We are asked this question a lot. The reply is always the same “ Do you have a beach in your current role in Stoke/ Manchester/ London etc”. Alas, we are not a travel agency, this is a job…. There are beaches, but we are not selling a holiday here and there’s plenty of sand so if you are a golfer, you can certainly practice your bunker shots. Remember, you are seeking a job or career, to WORK in the Middle East….

Age limits for Work in the Middle East – Retirement Age Middle East

Is there an age limit to work in the Middle East

Sometimes, because of the nature of the work, clients ask us to find candidates under a certain age. It is difficult to get a visa over the age of 55 or 60 particularly in Saudi. There are ways around this if the client is keen to have you on board. There are UK nationals working in the Middle East that we know of who are well over 70. Currently, the retirement age for expatriates in Saudi Qatar and Dubai is 60. It is becoming increasingly difficult for organisations to provide visas after the age of 60.

Recent Press- The full article can be found on the following webpage – Expatriate Employees Retirement Age Saudi

The recently announced move to force Saudi Arabia’s expatriate employees to retire at the age of 60 is set to cause as much controversy in the kingdom.

Following on an announcement that the controversial Saudi Arabia expat worker levy is here to stay, the latest plan by the Ministry of Labour is likely to cause at least as much disagreement and disquiet.  Many agree with the standardising of the retirement age with that of Saudi workers, while others believe the expatriate retirement age should be set even lower.

N.B As a recruitment organisation, our clients provide us with specific requirements. If our client states that they cannot obtain a visa for anyone over 60, then we have to adhere to that requirement.(regardless of you telling us that you are a perfectly fit and healthy 60- 70 year old). In some instances there may be client side organisations who are able to bend the rules, but we and the majority of our clients cannot. We ask that you are respectful to our recruiters in this circumstance, our hands are tied. We work to the parameters we are given and respectfully work within GCC laws. 

Required Qualifications to work in the Middle East

What qualifications do I need for a job in Dubai, Saudi, Bahrain Oman Kuwait or Qatar?

That depends on the role. When clients approach a recruiter, it is usually for a candidate that they can’t find themselves. Roles that we recruit for in the Middle East require a minimum of a Degree Qualification and sometimes Chartered Status. MRICS MAPM MCIOB CEng PEng. Some companies and countries ask for a Full-time degree qualification rather than a part-time degree qualification. In certain instances, some clients ask for a 4-year degree rather than a 3-year degree.

If you are looking for other work in the Middle East, the qualifications of that role may be different. The qualifications above, only apply to the roles we are advertising. All requirements are disclosed on ALL our adverts.

Getting a work Visa, Residents Visa or Iqama in the Middle East

How long does it take to get a work visa for the Middle East?

When you have an offer for the middle east, you have to start the process of obtaining a visa. The timescale is currently 1-3 months dependent upon location. Some clients have a quicker process than others, they have a team to help you. So you won’t have to do this alone.

In all countries, you will need a work visa or Iqama ( Saudi) or Residents Visa in order to open a bank account. Life would be difficult without one.

The following are requirements.

  • Attestation of your qualifications. Your qualifications/ marriage certificates belong to you, the cost of attesting them is sometimes down to the candidate. But some clients do pay for this.
  • A police clearance check. (see below on Criminal Convictions)
  • A medical examination
  • Vaccinations  (Please check the internet for current rules and guidelines on vaccinations)
  • The client pays all visa fees and medical

I have a criminal conviction, will I still be able to go to the Middle East?

Part of the visa paperwork requires a Police Clearance Check. If you have a criminal conviction, you will unlikely be able to obtain a visa. You can make a plea to have certain minor convictions removed from your UK record.

What Construction projects will I be working on in the Middle East?

That depends on your experience. If you are a Buildings Specialist- Hotels, Resorts, Mixed Use, Commercial, Leisure and Entertainment projects. If you are a civils professional there are Roads and Highways, Bridges and Dams or Rail projects. There are so many great projects to work on in the Middle East.

What is the holiday allowance in the Middle East?

Holiday Allowances differ slightly from country to country. For example, you can expect 22-25 days plus 10 National days in Saudi. You can check national days for each county yearly on the internet. There are also a number of religious holidays throughout the year.

Can I take my Pet to the Middle East

This information relates specifically to Dogs.

You can take your pet with you if you are going to work in the United Arab Emirates or Qatar, it is slightly more restrictive in Saudi Arabia. There is a lot of information available on the internet.

DUBAI & QATAR-Dogs must be registered and vaccinated. This is mandatory. Every dog must have a microchip and up-to-date vaccinations. The registrations are valid for a year, and you have to re-register your pet every year.

Visit the pet traveller website for detailed information Basics detailed below:

  • Register and vaccinate your dog.
  • Use a lead and mask in public.
  • Make sure your dog is not on the prohibited breeds list
  • Don’t take your dog to prohibited dog areas.
  • Don’t let your dog harm other people and property
  • Clean up after your dog

SAUDI- All of the above apply but the paperwork process can be more difficult for Saudi than other GCC countries. Expats who go out to Saudi to work should think seriously about taking their pets.

Saudi Arabia is governed by the Shari’a, which is the Islamic Law. According to Wahhabism, animals, and dogs, in particular, are deemed to be impure creatures. Thus, Saudi authorities used to prohibit dogs as well as cats from entering the country for years.

Middle East Construction Recruitment. Middle East Construction Recruitment Agency

How do I apply for jobs and careers in the Middle East?

Many candidates prefer to work through a recruiter to apply for jobs and vacancies in the Middle East. Other candidates prefer to apply directly or to send their CV via a contact they already know.

The benefit of working through Stafford Lawrence Ltd

  1. We ensure that we receive feedback for all our candidates, whether this is positive or negative.
  2. We can put you forward for a number of roles with a variety of clients, with your permission.
  3. We work with you to secure a role and assist with paperwork and any further queries you might have.
  4. We only present your CV to clients with Live current and urgent vacancies.
  5. We can submit your CV to our clients. If you are not successful the first time we can continue to submit your CV to new roles in the future.

Terms and Conditions – Stafford Lawrence International Construction Recruitment

You are already on our clients system if you have applied directly or via a recruiter within 6-12 months. We therefore cannot resubmit your CV, even if it is a new role. This also applies to gathering feedback. We cannot gather feedback for candidates who have applied via a friend or via another recruiter. Unfortunately, we cannot gather feedback as GDPR prevents disclosure. So, if you are going to apply through that friend…. make sure that they are sending your CV to the right person and that you will get feedback.

Quantity Surveyor jobs in the Middle East

Cost Consultant jobs in the Middle East

Commercial Manager jobs in the Middle East

MRICS Quantity Surveyor jobs in the Middle East Saudi

QS Jobs in the Middle East – Saudi, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Dubai, Abu Dhabi

International Construction Recruitment Consultants – Stafford Lawrence Ltd

Every country has slightly different requirements,  we have only covered the basics here. If you are keen on living and working in the Middle East, please get in contact.

We have a number of Middle East vacancies. Please visit our International jobs page. Each job provides a detailed list of requirements, an email to apply to, and a reference number for that role.

You can email if you have any questions about any of our roles on our website.

Quantity Surveyor jobs in the Middle East- Middle East Recruitment

All our UK Middle East and International roles are on our website. Or follow us for up-to-date roles and information on our Stafford Lawrence Company Linkedin page

We will be writing similar articles for U.K Candidates who wish to work in the US, Canada and Australia

Tips on Writing your CV for work in the Middle East?

Visit our blog on CV writing Tips